Tag Archives: Author: Cody Wagner

3 Reasons Writing LGBTQ Fiction is Mega Rewarding

 

p1

Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.

Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!

When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.

Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.

The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.

But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.

I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)

Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.

When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.

Nope.

First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?

As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community.  She and I have since exchanged e-mails.

Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.

I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!

Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.

I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.

One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.

All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

The Big Gay Note by Cody Wagner

May first crush was on my eighth grade gym teacher. To protect the innocent, we’ll call him Coach Hottie. Coach Hottie was gruff and demanding and every gay eighth grade boy’s dream.

Despite the 35-year age gap, and the fact that I was only 13, which made the possibility of a relationship very very illegal, my teenage naiveté convinced me there was absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of our being a couple. In fact, I imagined us holding hands down the halls of Pampa Middle School, everyone eying us jealously. I even imagined wearing matching coach shorts to show my dedication as we strutted around. Sure, the entire school was homophobic, but my mind concocted amazing stories of love and acceptance. And they all hinged on a relationship with Coach Hottie.

And so I pursued him.

I found every reason to stay after gym class and offer to help with his paperwork (although I had no idea what he actually did). I volunteered to skip dodge ball to clean equipment racks for him. I even offered to wash his clothes in case his “washing machine ever broke, or, you know, whatever.”

The big problem – besides the aforementioned illegalness (OK I thought I made up a new word but ‘illegalness’ isn’t being corrected.) – was the fact Coach Hottie was very straight. And he acted like I barely existed. Therefore, my interest in him started to waver a bit over the course of a year.

Then came the Towel Incident ™.

Eighth grade gym was the only year I was ever forced to shower. After every class, we had to strip down and rinse off. Eighth graders are disgusting, so it was the school’s way of cleaning us up after we hit each other in the face with big red balls for an hour. The problem was, the idea of getting naked in front of my peers terrified me. After all, I was gay and, um, my hormones were raging.

Consequently, I was always the last student to get naked. I’d strip down, throw a towel around my waist, and go stand near the showers. But I wouldn’t bare all and shower yet. No, I had to stand there, convincing myself everything would remain calm and I wouldn’t get beaten up.

One day, as I stood there talking myself down, I heard, “Wagner, take off your towel and shower!”

It was Coach Hottie.

Immediately, my face flushed and my entire body tingled. Sure, he was just frustrated and trying to end the class. But my juvenile mind interpreted the Towel Incident very differently. My first and only thought was, He wants to see me naked!

And thus my crush was kicked into overdrive.

That night, I decided I had to come clean (pardon the pun). Trembling, I sat down and wrote a love note to Coach Hottie. I wrote that I was gay. And for the first time, I poured my feelings out. The note was long, emotional and perfect.

I sat back and stared at my masterpiece. Grinning, I grabbed an envelope and carefully wrote “To: Coach Hottie”. I debated drawing little hearts on it, but decided to let the note speak for itself.

After folding and sliding the paper inside, I sat back imagining Coach Hottie’s response. He’d be skeptical opening the note. He might even tell me he didn’t have time. After reading a few sentences, though, his expression would change. A tear would probably fall from his left eye. He’d drop the note and say, “How did you know?” I’d just smile and shrug as we leaned in for our first kiss.

Hugging the note, I placed it on my desk before bed. Then I tucked myself in, imagining the joy the following day would bring.

Thank God rational thought hit me in the middle of the night.

I don’t know what did it, but I shot up at 3:00AM thinking, What in the hell am I doing? It was the first sensible thing I’d thought in years. Part of me thinks a future version of myself sent eighth grade Cody a dream message. Either way, I hopped out of bed and tore up the note before I could stop myself.

For some reason, the insanity of what I’d done eased my crush on Coach Hottie. And something else began building up in my head. Despite the fact I never gave Coach Hottie the note, it was still the first time I’d ever written I was gay. That stuck!. Putting the words on paper actually made it real.

After that night, I really began to realize who and what I was.

It stuck with me so intensely that, when I wrote my novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, I knew I had to include that scene. In the book, my main character doesn’t write a love note. Instead, he writes that he’s gay out of pure frustration. Instead of tearing the note up, it ends up outing him.

The note solidified who I was, so I figured I’d let it kick start my character’s life. Only, because it’s fiction and I could let my imagination run wild, I did so in a way where the note would take him somewhere he’d never imagine or expect. I hope he thanks me for it when he’s all said and done.

Who knows, maybe he can write me a little note.
b
About the Author
Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there. He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

A Siren’s Guide to Puberty by Cody Wagner

 sirens-2-meme-come-back-cropped
My humongous boobs appeared from out of nowhere the morning of December 1st.  Sure, Mom had been saying, “My little Coriander is becoming a woman,” for months. But I didn’t think it would happen so fast. The night before, I had mosquito bites where my chest should have been. Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, I sprouted giant handfuls of breasts.

 

I also woke with a funny warmth in my throat. It didn’t hurt, but my voice definitely didn’t feel “normal”. It’s like someone had wrapped a heating pad around my tonsils. I didn’t think much about it, though, at least not yet. A minor tingling in my larynx took a definite backseat to the emergence of chesticles.

 

OK enough about my boobs. That has nothing to do with what happened. But puberty did, so it’s all connected.

 

I walked to class at Sam Houston Middle School that morning, a little disappointed no one was staring at my chest. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; I was the resident nobody. I’d have given weeks of lunch money for a bully to knock me around. Invisibility was my superpower.

 

I doodled my morning classes away, oblivious to the tingling in my throat. The vertical symmetry of hearts coupled with their horizontal asymmetry intrigued me, so they littered my notebook. It had nothing to do with love, trust me. The boys in my grade were nasty. Besides, they didn’t even know I existed. I didn’t care. Art was more important. And choir.

 

Believe it or not, singing ruled my life more than hearts. I wouldn’t listen to music I couldn’t mimic. No rap or guy singers or sopranos. Only deeper rich altos. I belted Etta James for hours. Maybe some gene lying dormant in my cells and knowing what I would become spawned this love of music. Or maybe I was a bona fide choir nerd of my own choosing.

 

Either way, I sprinted into the choir room right after lunch. Pretending I hadn’t run myself out of breath to be the first one in, I made my way to the boxes.

 

Each of us had a neatly labeled wooden box containing our music. December had arrived and it was Christmastime. Panting, I reached inside to see what we’d be learning for the holidays.

 

The box held two pieces: Everyone Bow Down and Silent Night. Everyone knew Silent Night, so I shoved it back in and walked to the risers holding the other piece. Mrs. Addison, our music teacher, played something on a grand piano and didn’t acknowledge me. I flopped down and pored over the music.

 

By the time everyone had arrived, I knew most of the song. My jaw clenched with determination. I would be the most prepared singer. I would stand out.

 

“Let’s warmup.” Mrs. Addison stretched her abnormally long fingers and played various scales. I used my diaphragm support and tried putting vibrato into my voice, just like I’d been practicing for weeks.

 

We finished without incident (meaning no one commented on my mature sound) and Mrs. Addison said, “Did everyone get the new songs?” When we nodded, she continued, “Good. Let’s open Everyone Bow Down.”

 

I shot to my feet. Oblivious to my enthusiasm, she said, “Let’s practice just the first page.”

 

At that, she stood, lifted a thin baton, and conducted as we sang:

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

Suddenly, all the guys except for two fell to their knees and reverently placed their heads on their thighs. The two boys left standing – both unpopular and nerdy – stared awkwardly around the room. I’m sure they felt utterly singled out again, as if everyone deemed “cool enough” was let in on surprise choreography.

 

A few of the cool girls giggled.

 

I rolled my eyes and thought, Very mature. How was I going to get noticed with the guys being stupid? However, I didn’t focus on that for long because the warmth in my throat erupted. I gripped my neck. The sensation didn’t hurt, but it was intense and foreign. Stiffening my legs, I mentally shook the feeling away; I needed to wow everyone, not obsess over warm tonsils.

 

Mrs. Addison smiled. “It’s great to see how much you love Jesus, but I want to make it through the song before my eighty cats starve to death.” OK that’s not what she said. But if Mrs. Addison could always ignore me, I could call her out on being the school’s cat lady.

 

The kneeling guys jerked up and began to look around, confused. One rubbed his head and said, “What happened?”

 

Mrs. Addison shook her head. “Very funny. Let’s sing.”

 

They glanced at each other and a few shrugged. I didn’t buy their little amnesia routine and ignored them until they grabbed their music and we all sang again:

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

The same guys shot to their knees again. This time, the other girls about fell over laughing. I grabbed my throat. The warmth was more intense. The two boys still standing peeked at each other. I’m sure they were wondering if they should pretend to kneel. Anything to fit in with the stupid jocks.

 

 

Mrs. Addison clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Enough. That’s the last time, OK?”

 

Only it wasn’t the last time.

 

We tried singing the song five more times. Five! Each time, the same guys fell to their knees. And each time, they acted all groggy after.

 

Mrs. Addison’s hands shook with rage. It was obvious the boys were showing off for the girls, but even Miss Popular Lindsay Thomas (or “MPLT” as I called her) threw her music and screamed, “Come on!”

 

Mrs. Addison slammed a hand on the piano and everyone jumped.

 

“That is IT.” She snapped her baton in half and pointed both pieces at us. “We’re singing solos until this stops.”

 

The class froze. Girls’ voices were young and wispy. Guys’ notes cracked all over the place. Being self-conscious tweens, everyone hated singing alone.

 

Except me. I sat up, excited. Finally. My chance to show how hard I’d worked.
“Lindsay, you go first.”

 

I guess it made sense for MPLT to start. If the boys were acting up for anyone, it was her. Still, I exhaled loudly, letting everyone know I wanted to go.

 

Lindsay stood up, trying to look cool. But her paper shook, betraying her nerves. Mrs. Addison raised a hand and Lindsay began to sing. When she made it to Everyone Bow Down, everyone froze and turned to the guys. Nothing happened.

 

“Finally,” Mrs. Addison said.

 

I stuck my tongue out at no one and pouted, figuring we were done with the solos.

 

But Mrs. Addison was still so pissed, she made the next girl stand up and sing. Again, the boys behaved. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted the chance to wow everyone. I imagined finishing my solo and everyone staring, mouth open. Mrs. Addison would clap and everyone would raise me up on their arms.

 

I shook away the fantasy and watched the procession of singers. As each girl stood, terrified, I drew a tiny heart with my finger, counting the people until it was my turn.

 

Finally, after six girls, Mrs. Addison said, “OK Coriander, your turn.”

 

I smiled and said, “I’m ready.” Then I held out my paper, on purpose, to show everyone my hands weren’t shaking.

 

She nodded at me. I felt the heat build, embraced it, and began singing in my smooth alto.

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

The guys flew to their knees. This time, they moved so fast, I heard banging as their legs hit the risers.

 

A few girls covered their mouths. I jerked in surprise and, oblivious to the heat in my throat, started to seethe. Every single stupid shot I had to stand out was somehow ruined. I glared at the guys then turned to Mrs. Addison for help.

 

She looked at me, pure confusion on her face. Apparently, I was such a nobody, she didn’t think the guys would do this for me. After staring a few seconds, she composed herself and said, “It seems as if our boys aren’t mature enough to respect people.” She folded her hands. “Coriander, please go again.”
My heart bounced; I was getting another chance. And this time would be my best. I glared at the stupid boys, took my deepest breath ever, and began to sing.

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

Knees hit risers again. Mrs. Addison growled in frustration.

 

Furious, I threw down my music and sang, “Leave me alone!”

 

That’s when my world blew up.

 

Every guy – except the same two nerds who hadn’t kneeled – took off. Most of them went for the door, crashing into each other in desperation to leave. Four eighth-graders raced to the windows. A heard creaks as the windowpane flew open. One-by-one they jumped.

 

A couple girls screamed. It was stupid because we were on the first floor and the windows were like five feet off the ground. Still, I admit my hands trembled. I had no idea what was going on but finally realized it had something to do with me.

 

Sweat running down my back, I put a hand over my vocal cords and turned to the front.
Mrs. Addison stood there, glaring at me. “Office. Now. And you better hope the boys return.”

 

The rest of the class stood paralyzed.

 

My brain was in another world and I didn’t even argue with her. Nodding absently, I shuffled out the door.

 

Tears should have flowed as I trundled to the office. Every scenario I’d ever imagined about being sent to the principal included mountains of tears. But I was so confused, I couldn’t cry. My subconscious knew singing the words, “Leave me alone!” would work. I don’t know how it knew, but it did. And the idea terrified me. I admit it excited me, too. I had done something straight out of X-Men comics. Talk about insane.

 

Stopping, I put a hand on my heart. The feeling in my throat seemed to reach out and grab my chest. I didn’t know what had caused all this, but I involuntarily looked down at my boobs. In that moment, I knew my invisibility cloak was gone forever.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, “came out” on October 27th. See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there. He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

About Music (Part 2) …

Music moves us. Whether it be to make us happy, sad, or (in some rare cases) violent, music affects our emotions. The authors of the Write Room have shared their thoughts and feelings about music and how it shapes our lives (Dellani Oakes)

is

The Music of Life By Micki Peluso

Music is ingrained in our lives from the melodic chirping of birdsong to lullabies crooned to sleepy toddlers. We celebrate with music, we mourn with music. Even some dogs like to sing; or maybe they just howl to get us to stop. My house was always filled with music, especially when five of my six kids were teenagers. It was the late 70s but we all loved to sing songs from the 60s as well; Elvis Presley was an icon in our home.

My oldest daughter Kim played guitar and wrote songs, and her sisters and I sang along, sometimes taping ourselves on cassettes with a little red recorder. We all cried while singing Teen Angel, but couldn’t stop singing it. That song would prove an omen of the day when we would have our own Teen Angel.

Dante could play any instrument and song by ear, even classical music like Beethoven and Bach — Where did he hear that? Kelly sang in the school choir and Noelle played the trumpet in the band. The rest of us were not musically talented but I did know if a note was flat. I taught myself to play the guitar years before but when I could go no further I taught Kim, who was six years old at the time. She quickly surpassed me.

I did love to sing, albeit off key, and sang Baptist spirituals and folk songs like I Gave My Love a Cherry, and my favorite country-western songs. I could do a fair Love Me Tender, or so I thought. Noelle burst in from school one day to show me her new trumpet by blasting me with a few earsplitting notes. “Can you play, Long, Long Ago, Far, Far Away?” I asked. When the joke finally the hit her, she just laughed. Thankfully we had an acre of land and no close neighbors – although I thought I heard the dairy cows from the nearby barn mooing backup up one day.

On a sunny late summer day, 14-year-old Noelle was singing and dancing down our country lane, on her way to a concert at the nearby park with her girl friend. I knew she was meeting her first puppy love, a cute, blue-eyed, shaggy haired boy named Chuck. Within moments, a drunk driver struck her and left her face down on the side of the road. That day the music died – except for the mournful dirge of the church organ on the day of her funeral.

It was a few months later when her younger sister, Nicole’s, 11th birthday was coming up. I had to convince her to have her party at the Roller Skating Rank where the girls had spent so many good times skating to the hit tunes and a few oldies. She felt guilty but agreed to go. As she and her friends ate pizza and drank soda, I turned to gaze at the skating rink. For a few brief moments I saw Noelle, dancing on skates smiling and full of life. I was mesmerized. I blinked, and the vision was gone, but I heard a line from the stereo playing the song, American Pie, by Don McLean . . . “The Day the Music Died.”
is (1)

Joy of the Blues by Bryan Murphy

I fell in love with blues music as a teenager. For a provincial Brit, it was irresistible; exotic, foreign but accessible, and hypnotic. It has proved to be an enduring love. Blues music would make an ideal soundtrack to my science fiction writing, because it is dark, like the futures I project. But my poem below is celebratory, more suited to a rare piece of joyful blues: Rock Me Mama by the ultimate blues pianist, Otis Spann.

 

Joy of the Blues

On holiday from a theatre of war,

wandering around the retirement town

where I’d tried to grow up,

I ran into well-groomed, greying men

last seen snarling

in playground brawls.

 

“You still got all them blues records?”

Sunshine, I bloodied your knuckles on my nose,

seduced your sweet sister, and you remember me

for my blues collection?

“You bet: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker,

Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf, …”

 

that other Americana beyond the dream:

bitter with authenticity, on the periphery

of our consciousness, offering

the human experience in twelve bars,

 

on the rack, stretched to limits,

infinite variation on finite themes,

like language, soccer, life. Blues

transcended the conventions it endorsed,

 

seeded my malleable mind with a conviction

that cultural barriers are there to overcome,

so that the Sirens of this world’s uneasy zones

will always outbid the muzak of too-sweet home.

You can find Otis Spann on YouTube, and Bryan Murphy’s e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

caregie hall

Music: Releases Stress by Fran Lewis

Music has always been an integral part of my life from the age of seven. Loving the sound of the ivories on the piano and wanting to play on a real piano my mom allowed me to have lessons but I practiced on a paper keyboard. She wanted to make sure that I really wanted the lessons and that I had a true passion for the piano. Within six months the instructor told her she should definitely buy me a piano and my grandfather did. School, even at seven years old, was demanding since my mom required that I do my homework as soon as I came home, studied for tests and then, of course, had dinner. But in between, I would practice my scales and prepare my piano pieces for my lessons. Just sitting in front of the piano and playing relaxed me and all of the tension from the day vanished, and I was in another world filled with the sound of the music. Whether it was a Chopin Waltz, or a Beethoven Concerto or a Sonata, I immersed myself in the piece and could feel myself one and the same with the music.

Music was my major in college and learning to transpose pieces into different keys was a real challenge, yet it was one that I loved. Majoring in music also required that you learn another instrument–mine was the violin. So, along with the piano at age 10, I took on the violin, became concertmistress in the ninth grade and played first violin throughout high school. I even played in the borough orchestra.

Music has, and always will be, a great part of my life. To this day, when I feel overwhelmed, know that I have to visit the dentist one more time or must handle any other type of crisis, I sit down, put on the earphones and listen to the Three Tenors, a classical piece of music, or the first piece that I ever played in Carnegie Hall: The Waltz of the Flowers.

Educator, author, magazine publisher and book reviewer Fran Lewis has had a career that celebrates the written word, but she has also had a life filled with the pleasure of music. http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U

hand bells

Christmas Carols and Being Gay are Related. I Promise by Cody Wagner

I recently joined a singing group that performs around Phoenix during the holidays. We had orientation Tuesday and were given 50+ carols to memorize AND choreography to study AND handbells to… well, I don’t know what the frick to do with handbells yet.

With all that stuff to learn, we were told to begin practicing right away. Consequently, I walked around the house all day singing “Jingle Bell Rock”. And maybe around Safeway. And possibly Chipotle.

Please note it’s early September. We haven’t even reached Halloween season yet. Yet there I was humming “Dancin’ and prancin’ in Jingle Bell Square!” down the aisles at Wal Mart. Oh yeah, I practiced at Wal Mart, too.

Let me just say I received some judgmental looks. I fully expect to make that “People of Wal Mart” website with the caption “This guy is wearing a ‘Mom, Dad, I’m Gaelic’ t-shirt and singing ‘Fum! Fum! Fum!’ during Summer”.

When I received a particularly nasty look from a mother who covered her child’s eyes, I admit I got embarrassed. Believe it or not, that embarrassment was sparked by memories of growing up gay in a little redneck town. OK OK, Christmas carols in summer and being gay may seem like the most unrelated things ever, but wait for it.

I wasn’t the gay kid who hated himself. Somehow, I knew being gay wasn’t wrong, although everyone around me said homosexuals were evil. I had this little seed of self-confidence I’m eternally grateful for. With that said, I was still in the closet. Big time. While I was OK with myself, I knew people around me weren’t. They had this thing in their heads that straight people were the norm and anyone outside that circle was a weirdo.

I bet you a plate of delicious Pad Thai that the mom who shielded her kid’s eyes thought, People sing carols from Thanksgiving to New Years. Anyone outside that circle is a weirdo.

Look how I brought it all together. Cody – 1, Not Cody – 0.

That feeling of not being evil yet not fitting in has always been a part of my life. It’s also an integral part of my new book as well. I worked to infuse that element into the protagonist. I wanted him to fight, to remain secure, while being bombarded from outside forces. Especially when he gets sent to a pray-away-the-gay school (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!).

And my experience with public music brought those old conflicted feelings out in me, which made me feel even more connected with my character. Funny how that happens.

Part of me ultimately wants my protagonist to stand up for himself. But for him to rise up, I felt I had to do the same. So when that mother’s glare burned into me, I actually straightened, looked her in the eye, and sang, “Here I come a caroling, among the cans of peas!”

It was the lamest verse ever, but my protagonist will be better off for it.

Cody Wagner writes about things he questions, ranging from superpowers to sociopathic kids. His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. Check out his writing updates and read more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or follow him on Twitter @cfjwagner.